Putin gifts matching golden rings to allies like the Dark Lord Sauron in 'Lord of the Rings'

Some have likened Mordor, the fictional kingdom of the villain, to Russia.

Yen Zhi Yi | December 30, 2022, 01:56 PM

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Russian President Vladimir Putin presented eight golden rings as gifts to leaders of Moscow-allied countries during a summit at St Petersburg which took place from Dec. 26 to Dec. 27, AFP reported.

The summit was reportedly a platform to discuss cooperation in various fields, such as economy, culture and security, according to The Moscow Times.

The leaders of the eight post-Soviet states were presented with these rings as an emblem of their regional grouping, known as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

The eight CIS states in attendance were Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. 

The rings presented by Putin were apparently engraved with the words “Happy New Year 2023” and “Russia”.

Only one of the eight leaders, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, was seen wearing the ring. Putin also kept a ninth ring for himself, AFP reported.

The ring on Lukashenko's hand. (Image via Kommersant)

A real-life Sauron?

Putin's choice of gifts to his allies have sparked various interpretations and online jokes which made reference to J. R. R. Tolkien’s trilogy "The Lord of The Rings", commonly abbreviated as "LOTR".

AFP quotes a prominent political scientist, Ekaterina Schulmann, as saying that the allusion of the Russo-Ukrainian war to LOTR was deliberate and called Putin's gifting of the rings looked like "a fever dream".

Another political commentator, Yulia Latynina, described the rings as “rings of powerlessness”, implying that Putin was trying to shore up influence while facing increasing isolation on the international stage.

She also added that whoever puts on the rings would have their states "[turned] into darkness ruled by a madman".

Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksiy Goncharenko took to Twitter to express his views on Putin’s actions, saying that he decided to “play Lord of The Rings and become a 'mighty Sauron'” by presenting the rings to the CIS leaders during the summit.

He also wrote, “Can we now officially call the Russian army orcs?”, making reference to the antagonist's army in the franchise.

In the LOTR franchise, the Dark Lord Sauron is the villain who gave out magical rings to the nine kings of men, also called Nazgul, in order to bend them to his will and do his bidding. Putin's gifting of rings therefore led to some comparisons to Sauron's actions.

Image via Tolkien Gateway/Kenneth Sofia

Others have responded to this Twitter thread, with some posting photos of Putin and the CIS leaders photoshopped as characters from LOTR, while others joked at the situation's resemblance to the franchise's storyline.

A Dark Lord

Ever since Putin’s mobilisation of Russian troops to Ukraine in February 2022, Ukrainian authorities have also repeatedly drawn parallels between Sauron's kingdom of Mordor and Russia, in addition to referring to Russian forces as Orcs, Sauron’s army of evil creatures.

Kremlin spokesman rejects LOTR jokes

Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson for the Kremlin, said that one does not need to read too much into the meaning of the gifted rings.

He added that “It’s just a New Year’s souvenir”, and that Putin would not be putting the ring on, according to AFP.

Raging war & tensions

Russia and Ukraine are still embroiled in deadly warfare, with Russia regularly firing cruise missiles into Ukrainian cities.

Tensions have reportedly emerged among the CIS grouping, with Putin admitting during the summit that  "disagreements also arise between the member states of the Commonwealth," according to The Moscow Times.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky also recently visited the frontline town of Bakhmut on Dec. 20 before flying to the U.S. with a battlefield flag. The day also marked 300 days since the Russian invasion began.

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Top image adapted via Alexey Danichev/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images & GoncharenkoUa/Twitter